I’m somewhat surprised to find how many spec-fic, especially fantasy, writers have never gamed. By gaming, I’m meaning traditional tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons (and the like), and computer-base games where you get to create your own characters.
Most writers, I suspect, write because we’ve been inspired by other people’s stories. I know this is true for me. I started with Tolkien, and branched out from there, and my spec-fic mix was probably 70%/30% fantasy to science fiction. I write the kind of stories I want to read.
Four streams of spec-fic story content come to mind: books, movies, comic books, and gaming, and gaming shouldn’t be overlooked as a viable means for writer’s to find story inspiration.
In short, Gaming is interactive story telling. It’s the grown up version of playing with action figures. It’s playing pretend, but with rules and structure. It’s social, invovling a group of at least 2 or more (ideally 5 or 6). Whether your the Gamemaster acting as the master facilitator of the story, setting the stage and narrating the world’s responses to player actions, or a player focused on bringing a single character to life, gaming is the closest we come to experiencing our stories.
Gaming has certainly impacted my writing. Of course, from a content perspective, stories from games have the same inspirational value as stories from novels, comic books, and movies. But gaming’s structure and engaging nature provides a fuel which, for me, sparks countless story ideas and demands I break away to put pen to paper.
Gaming has impacted the development of the When Dragons Die trilogy, both its characters and world. Tiberan was the very first D&D character I ever made, back in 1986. His class was “elf”, from the classic D&D era when a race was its own class. Other names soon followed when I got the computer rpg, The Bard’s Tale, for our Apple ][c: Valkrage, Kaldor, Aaron…
Each of these characters have been reinvinted through world reboots, whether for games or in my learning attempts at writing novels. All three of them, Kaldor, Valkrage, and Tiberan, have seen incarnations as D&D, Rolemaster, Bard’s Tale, Morrowind, Skyrim, and World of Warcraft characters.
And, with every game system, I also create new characters, with new names. Some of these get imported back into my writing and added to my world-building mythology. Aradma first saw life as a World of Warcraft character, and eventually became my “main”. I imported her into Ahmbren and worked her into the mythology, and six months later I started writing Lightfall.
Gaming rules have also shaped Ahmbren. The channelling magic of sorcerers, druids, and runewardens were based off of the “magical powers” design rules from the Generic Universal Roleplaying System (GURPS) and Big Eyes Small Mouth (BESM). (Incidnetlly, I’m running a BESM mini-campaign set in Ahmbren here in a few weeks).
The wizard magic is almost a direct import from Pathfinder, which evolved from the D&D slot-preparation/memorization style of magic. I detest the concept of spell memorization and forgetfulness, so I devised a new explanatory rational for how the spell preparation works (explained in detail in Covenant), but the mechanics are the same. (Sorcerers and priests (runewardens) and druids are *not* modeled after Pathfinder in Ahmbren, since they channel magic on the fly rather than having to prepare specific spells).
There is no single gaming system out there that, as written, captures the unique blend that is Ahmbren. With some work, GURPS would sufficiently function (with some adaptation of the Pathfinder Wizard spell list), or better yet, BESM 2nd Edition if it were still in print. I’ve considered designing and releasing my own game system, or making a Pathfinder derivative since its engine is licensed for public and commercial use under the Open Gaming License.
[Hmmm… maybe a side project to start working on: Ahmbren, the Official Role-Playing Game. (Dammit, I really wish the BESM Tri-Stat system was open license).]
Until next week (and maybe it’s time to continue the RPG for Writers series, with GURPS and BESM under the microscope),